By now, we have heard a lot about the hybrid workplace and what it will consist of. Organizations face two big questions: how much physical office space do they need, and how should they divide that space among various uses (hotel/hot desks, conference rooms, collaboration space)? The only way to answer these questions with certainty is to begin with an experimental configuration and gather data on how staff use it, with the intention to optimize over time.
Why The Data Matters
Usage data will reveal whether the organization needs more office space or might be able to reduce its real estate footprint, as well as how to adjust the mix of uses. The two are closely linked: faced with a need for more conference rooms, an organization might conclude that it needs an additional floor. Recognizing low utilization of desk space, however, the organization might be able to convert desk space into conference rooms and meet the need without expanding its footprint.
The data thus enables the organization to right-size the real estate portfolio and minimize real estate costs. It also enables the organization to provide more of the spaces staff want to use, benefitting productivity along with retention and recruitment. Organizations will find themselves in a new phase of competition for talent as staff return to the office and size up how well the hybrid workplace suits their needs versus what other companies offer.
The data needs to be collected on an ongoing basis, as trends prevalent in the first wave of return may not last. Those with young children at home may be eager to return, whereas others may remain reticent in the wake of COVID. Three to six months later, demand may have shifted, and it’s impossible to accurately predict how. Organizations must be agile, with the ability to adapt to changing demand based on real-time usage data.
How To Gather the Data
Direct measurement systems are the best way to gather quantitative usage data. An occupancy measurement system alongside other workplace applications will indicate precisely how often staff use a given space. By integrating with other systems, occupancy measurement can also provide real-time automated building management efficiencies, such as turning lights on and off when people enter and leave a room (faster than the typical passive infrared sensor), booking a room in the reservation system when people walk in, returning it as available when no one shows up for a meeting, or starting a videoconference when meeting participants enter.
Indirect measurement through existing technology systems is also possible. Many of the systems companies already have in place, such as access control, room reservations, and videoconferencing can generate actionable usage data if cross-referenced against one another. The missing piece to capitalize on existing systems is software that aggregates and analyzes the data to establish a data pipeline.
Surveys attached to digital workplace experience applications can provide valuable qualitative data. However, surveys alone will not provide a reliable source of data, as what survey respondents say often differs from what they do. For instance, a respondent might love the idea of the office’s new library space, but they might in fact rarely use it, so it probably is not something the company should invest in replicating across other locations.
Tying all of these systems together requires a data pipeline similar to what organizations may already have deployed in other parts of their business. The challenge with a real estate data pipeline is that the system owners are usually spread across different groups that may only have access to a subset of the data required for actionable insights. The workplace analytics platform at the end of the data pipeline provides a consistent reporting interface for all stakeholders to evaluate the performance and utilization of their measured spaces. This unified perspective delivers the information needed for informed decision making.
TEECOM Can Help
TEECOM is helping companies formulate and implement digital workplace strategies, determining which technology systems are needed to support their future workplace. To continue the conversation, use the Contact TEECOM form at the bottom of the page.
Alex Serriere contributed to this article.